Power, celebration and circuits of legitimation: the local use of papal letters in late twelfth-century Denmark

Emil Lauge Christensen, Kim Esmark, Iben Fonnesberg-Schmidt

Publikation: Bidrag til tidsskriftTidsskriftartikelForskningpeer review


This article explores the role of papal communication in the local construction of royal and papal authority. Taking the kingdom of Denmark as its case, it analyses letters issued by Pope Alexander III to King Valdemar I and the Danish clergy before a grand meeting at Ringsted in 1170. It is argued that to understand the function and impact of the papal letters fully it is necessary to examine not only their verbal content, but also their wider processual context: how a Scandinavian delegation obtained the letters at the papal court in Benevento; how the letters were presented to the Danish audience as part of the ritual celebrations at Ringsted; and how the events later were framed and narrated by local Scandinavian authors. As a whole, the process constituted a ‘circuit of legitimation’, a reciprocal exchange between the pope and the king of recognition and glorification.
TidsskriftJournal of Medieval History
Udgave nummer3
Sider (fra-til)353-369
Antal sider17
StatusUdgivet - 2023


  • papacy
  • papel letters
  • legitimation
  • twelfth-century
  • Danish kingdom

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